Influence on a Twisted Mind

Sociopaths are defined as being superficially charming and great at making first impressions. However, they are also “callous, grandiose, guiltless, and dishonest, and frequently engage in impulsive and reckless acts” (Lilienfeld, Scott O). No other character in Sandra Cisneros’ collection of short stories in Woman Hollering Creek matches these benchmarks to the same extent as Clemencia, from Never Marry a Mexican. In fact, this particular character fits every single listed trait. Through her abnormal view of social status, and enjoyment of manipulating and controlling others, Clemencia most clearly displays that her drive is sociopathic, the cause of which being her perception of her parents’ own individual happiness.

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From the start of her upbringing, Clemencia is conflicted about what to consider as successful. Her father and mother came from very different social classes, her father of the upper class and her mother of the lower. At the start of the story, although her relationship with either parent is neutral at this point, she seemingly shows some contempt for her father during the earliest stage of her parents’ relationship when she imagines that he thought of her grandfather {mother’s side} as a “servant” (Cisneros 70-71). Alongside this, she mentions how her father viewed his old life as calidad, or quality, while his life with her mother was reduced to that of a peasant. In this section of the story, it is implied that her father was let down by his new life, and was happier with his former, lavish lifestyle. Due to this, she sees happiness in wealth and expensive items. On the other hand, as her father is dying to an unspecified yet gruesomely described illness, her mother begins having an affair with a wealthy white man. Clemencia says that “while [her] father was coughing up blood and phlegm in the hospital,” her mother begins a relationship with another man, and “that’s what [she] can’t forgive” (73). In her new relationship after the death of her husband, her mother says she is happy now because she “never had a chance to be young” with Clemencia’s father (73). Once again, Clemencia interprets her mother’s statement and root of happiness in her own way, and begins to think happiness comes from the thrill of affairs. This significant event in her life solidifies the final of the two things she believes will result in happiness and purpose: wealth and relationships.

As she describes the calidad clothing her father used to wear, there is almost contempt, but it turns closer to admiration, as proven later in the story. Eventually, she leaves home and begins searching for an apartment to live in with her sister and her sister’s children. Clemencia chooses one with “high ceilings and wonderful glass skylights . . . never mind there was no sink in the bathroom, a tub that looked like a sarcophagus, and floorboards that didn’t meet, and a hallway to scare away the dead” for 150$ a month (72). By being able to go without a feeling of security with the hallway and  the high rent for a space that seems unfit to house two women and various children all because of an above average ceiling and skylight; Clemencia displays fearlessness, guiltlessness and grandiosity, all of which Lilienfeld considers “core affective and interpersonal traits of psychopathy.” Later in the story, when meeting her married lover’s wife, she is embarrassed by her how old her shoes are, which she mentions after describing how her lover’s wife looks like a “redheaded barbie doll in a fur coat” (79). Although she says the woman looks similar to many others, the primary comparison Clemencia makes is that of the coat and her shoes. She fully believes she has Drew in her control, despite him being married to and living with another woman, yet the wife’s subtle display of wealth over Clemencia’s own is what sets her off. Clemencia finally acts on her discomfort when she’s staying at Drew’s while his wife and child are away on vacation. Every time she went to the bathroom, she inspected and took inventory of the wife’s expensive belongings: fancy lipsticks, nail polishes, cotton balls and hairpins, immaculate sheepskin slippers, a bathrobe made in Italy, and a silky nightshirt with pearl buttons (81). Overcome with jealousy of Drew’s wife’s calidad items, Clemencia hides gummy bears in places she is sure only the wife would find. She smashes lipstick in with one bear, slips another into each bottle of nail polish on display, and continues placing them about in this manner until Drew calls her for dinner (81-82). This is an impulsive move, yet it has the potential to cause issues in a relationship Clemencia won’t be seeing any more of. It’s reminiscent of the behavior frequent in children, where “if I can’t have it, no one can.” In her case, it’s happiness from a man she enjoyed controlling that she can’t have any more of. Her showing of  impulsive and almost self-destructive behavior are both traits Lilienfeld uses to classify sociopaths. Lastly, her handling of the entire situation with Drew serves as the perfect window to peer into her convoluted image of what a relationship should be.

As previously mentioned, as Clemencia’s father is dying, her mother begins a relationship with another man who she is finally happier with. However, Clemencia sees it as the cheating aspect that brings happiness. Throughout the majority of the story, she’s tangled with a married man, who began as her teacher. The entire time, she derives great pleasure from manipulating him and the feeling of power it brings. For example, on page 75, Clemencia writes towards Drew: “You’re nothing without me . . . I can snuff you out between my finger and thumb if I want to . . .” This is what she seeks in a relationship; towards the beginning of the story she even says that she “borrows” her men, and would never marry because “not a man exists who hasn’t disappointed [her]” (69). Even though she says every man has disappointed her, she remains Drew’s mistress for years. This is because of her mother’s earlier affair. During that time, as her father died and her mother began her unfaithfulness, she felt powerless. She first met Drew as her teacher, who was in a position of power over her. However, she gradually turns the tables on him, until she has him “aching for her skin,” sees him powerless, and stays awake as he lies in sleep next to her, just so she can take in every moment of his longing for her alongside her total control (78). Clemencia saw her mother’s happiness in an affair while she herself felt powerless, so Clemencia imitates this behavior by starting an affair to feel control over the man she feels she lost her mother to.

Clemencia’s childhood definitely had a large impact on her future and after examining the examples provided, it is clear that her motivation in life lies behind desire for superficial wealth and power. This is because of her sociopathy, as defined in Lilienfeld’s studies, altering her perception of others’ drive by making it difficult for her to relate to and understand any emotion beyond surface level.

Works Cited

Lilienfeld, Scott O. et al. “Correlates of Psychopathic Personality Traits in Everyday Life: Results from a Large Community Survey.” Frontiers in Psychology 5 (2014): 740. PMC. Web. 2 Nov. 2017.